By Allison K.
I’m writing to keep you updated on
the various ways the OHA is responding to the COVID-19 epidemic. This is an
evolving situation requiring work in a number of areas. By beginning work now,
we hope to get ahead of and mitigate negative impacts on the Association and
First, let me say I hope you all are
staying safe. The seriousness of COVID-19 cannot be overstated. Further, state
and federal guidelines on social distancing have impacted many of us in
profound ways, the full extent of which we won’t understand for weeks or
months, even years. The health and well-being of you and your communities is of
the highest priority. I ask you to follow all local and national orders on
sheltering in place and social distancing, and I encourage you, as you are
able, to prioritize self-care and care for your families and communities.
Second, we are continuing with
planning for our 2020 Annual Meeting in Baltimore. It is our sincere hope the
current crisis will resolve enough to allow us to move forward with the meeting
as planned. It is shaping up to be an exciting and dynamic meeting.
The Program Committee has been hard
at work reviewing session proposals, and acceptance notifications will go out
soon. The Call for Posters is now open, and scholarship applications are also available. We have
pushed back the scholarship application deadline to June 10, 2020, and
notifications will go out in July. We encourage you to plan for the meeting as
you would in any other year, though please review and follow the CDC’s guidelines on travel. It’s also best to not make nonrefundable
travel arrangements at this time.
Understanding there are many
unknowns in this situation, we have also begun a risk assessment of COVID-19
and the economic implications stemming from it for the Association. For the
annual meeting, there are a number of scenarios being considered, including the
possibility, if meeting face to face is not safe or feasible, of holding a
virtual meeting. These discussions are in early stages, and we are committed to
communicating with the membership and meeting attendees about these discussions
often and in a timely manner.
We are also developing a longer-term
emergency plan for the Association. This plan will cover a number of scenarios,
and I imagine by the end of 2020 our section on how to respond to pandemics will
be particularly robust.
As oral historians, in these times
of social distancing, we’ve had to reevaluate the how and why of face-to-face
interviewing. A number of resources around this issue have been developed that
I’d like to share with you.
First, the Association was fortunate
to partner with Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History to hold a
webinar on remote interviewing. If you were unable to attend, we’ve made
available the recording of the webinar, the slides, and additional
resources pulled from the webinar chat, as well as a summary of the
The Vermont Folklife Center has also
put out helpful tips on remote interviewing, and this week the Oral History
Society released substantive advice on remote interviewing. Finally, Sarah Dziedzic (who
has worn many hats in the Association, including currently serving as co-chair
for the Independent Practitioners Task Force) has written an essay on oral history, immunodeficiency and disability
justice. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it.
The Association is also working to
develop further guidelines and resources around remote interviewing and we hope
to distribute these soon. As resources in other areas impacting our community
become available, the Association will work to highlight and connect our
membership to them. If there are resources you find particularly useful or topics
on which you’d like to see more resources, please reach out to the office. If
you’re interested and available to help us curate resources in a particular
area, please let us know.
I’ll be in touch soon and regularly.
Please stay safe and take care.